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March 22, 2013

Adventure Riding with the Panasonic Toughbook H2

Panasonic Toughbook H2 in mud 600jpg

The Panasonic Toughbook H2 Tablet PC allows me to get my hands dirty (literally). For readers of the blog, you know I tend towards the extreme use of technology. So when I had the opportunity to try out a Panasonic Toughbook H2 that can withstand dust, water, shock, and severe cold, I was all-in! So then, I convinced my team an adventure ride was in order.

What is adventure riding? It’s where you strap camping gear onto a motorcycle and head out on the highway, dirt roads, and trails while camping along the way. And bringing the Toughbook H2 would allow me to test the durability of the PC, and use Windows 8 to capture the trip from remote locations. I loved the idea of being able to use the apps I depend on, and being able to connect cameras and other devices to the PC to work with photos and video while the trip unfolded. All this using a PC that can withstand the bumps, shock, moisture and other extreme conditions on the trip. So, with the Toughbook in my hand (ok, strapped to my bike), we hit the road.

Rob approaching Waterville 1200

One of the many great views of the trip – snowy mountains near Waterville, Washington

The Toughbook H2 is a fully rugged handheld tablet PC. Here are some basic specs:

  • IP65 certified sealed fanless waterproof design
  • Display: 10.1”, rated for up to 6000 nit sunlight viewable (XGA) with anti-reflective anti-glare coatings, dual-touch and pen digitizer
  • Intel Core i5-2557M vPro Processor
  • 4GB RAM (upgradeable to 8GB)
  • Rated for drops of up to 6 feet and to work under extreme temperatures (-20°F to 140°F)
  • Twin hot-swappable Li-Ion battery packs

This PC is even rated for what Panasonic lists as “explosive atmosphere” environments in the detailed specifications for the Toughbook H2– cool. Not sure I’ll test that however!

Toughbook H2 Side View Rocks 1200

Panasonic Toughbook H2 in its element

In the above picture you can see examples of the weather-proof doors that cover ports and access bays on the Toughbook H2. When you place your thumb in the detent and press downward these doors pop open for easy access.

Here’s a quick tour around the outside of the Toughbook H2:

Panasonic Toughbook H2 Screen View Straight On 1200

Top view, from top: Fingerprint reader, application buttons, Lock button

Panasonic Toughbook H2 Bottom Edge 1200

Bottom edge view, from left: 2D barcode reader (1D/2D capable), docking contacts, RFID scanner

Panasonic Toughbook H2 Back 1200

Back view: Ethernet port and serial port (right)

Panasonic Toughbook H2 Left Side 1200

Left side: USB 2.0 Port (left center), Battery 1 bay (right center)

Panasonic Toughbook H2 Right Side 1200

Right side: Battery Bay 2 (left center), DC in jack (right center)

To prepare the Toughbook H2, I installed Windows 8 on it (this is a Microsoft Certified Specialized PC for Windows 8) and a few of my favorite apps I use to blog. With the Toughbook H2 and my mobile Wifi access point, I would have everything I needed to pull pictures from my cameras, write-up trip details, post to forums, check local satellite imagery, preview video footage, and even check email– from any place with Verizon 4G coverage.

I also brought some GoPro cameras to mount to our helmets – that way we could shoot video and take pictures while we rode.

GoPro HERO2 Cameras 1200

GoPro cameras were used to capture video footage and extracted stills

These cameras take awesome video footage. I had the thought of capturing action still images (like water crossing shots) that I could not capture with a conventional camera. I loved the fact that I could connect these cameras directly to the Toughbook H2 via USB and pull footage and photos.

This trip did not present a friendly environment for electronics. The Toughbook H2 handled extreme duty tests including river water spray, dusty environments, and a hill climb crash that crushed/compressed the baggage compartment carrying it. I felt so confident in the Toughbook H2, I carried it on the bike in a compartment that was not waterproof. The waterproof enclosures for the GoPro cameras worked great as well as you’ll see next.

Would you take your tablet through this?

GoPro Water Creek Crossing Entering

Entering the first creek crossing

GoPro Water Splash Creek Crossing

Mid-way through the first creek crossing

All of these conditions and tests were no problem for the Toughbook H2– it’s a Tablet PC that is made for environments and tasks like this.

The sunlight readable screen was invaluable when we wanted to use the Toughbook H2 outside. The 6000 nit rating, anti-glare and anti-reflective properties enabled us to use the Toughbook H2 in direct sunlight.

Rob Previewing GoPro Footage Sun

Rob (friend and riding partner) watching head-cam GoPro footage on the Toughbook H2 in direct sunlight

This was the first time that I’ve taken a computer or a tablet on a trip like this, and having it with us was invaluable! We used the Toughbook H2 to download images from cameras, edit photos, watch video and extract stills, post pictures and updates on chat forums, charge devices, plan routes with satellite imagery, and more. I will bring it again for sure.

The Panasonic Toughbook H2 was fun to use on this trip in a real-world adventure setting. However, I keep thinking about the “explosive atmosphere” environments…. I’m not sure how to test that, but I do know I’m not done testing the durability of the Toughbook H2. Stay tuned for more updates!

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